BYOD vs. 1-1 with a little Robert Burns

A lot of Montana schools are talking about going or have gone 1-1 at some level.  A few years ago I was big into the 1-1 idea.  My idea was the kids would be given a laptop as a freshman and lease it for one-quarter the purchase price every year.  At the end of high school the laptop would be theirs.  Lots of problems with that.  Who want a four year old laptop?  What happens if Johnny loses or breaks the laptop?  What if Johnny is a (OMG) Mac user?  There was also the issue of the school buying that initial batch of laptops.  Finding the money would be a problem.

Our solution was BYOD.  Kids bring their own device, whatever it may be, and we work with that.  It has worked.  Being a 5/8 man band (I teach also) means I do not have a lot of tech time for kids to bring their device to me for operational help.  I was afraid I was going to get buried with tech issues from a dozen different brands of laptop.  It has not worked out that way.  The kids have learned to solve their own tech problems, or find a kid that can fix it for them.  For example hooking up to a school printer.  I show a couple of kids and then the knowledge sort of spreads like the common cold.  I am not proficient with Macs.  If a kid come to me with a Mac I tell them to go see Johnny, he has a Mac.  If Johnny does not know the answer come back and I will figure it out.  They rarely come back.

At first I was worried that some kids would not be able to afford a laptop.  There are some kids that do not have a laptop but with a combination of small classroom labs, loaner laptops and the kids sharing among themselves this has been a non-issue.  One of my geeks even started a laptop redistribution program as a project.  He takes in old donated laptops, refurbishes them and hands them back out to people that need them.  Some of the laptops donated are very nice, some are space junk. He has put out at least 40 laptops to the community, not just students.

Many schools going 1-1 are doing the Chromebook thing because of cost.  A Chromebook is dirt cheap compared to a PC laptop and is ridiculously easy to manage.  I am not a Chromebook fan.  You spend $200 for a device to access a free browser.  Something wrong with that.  Yes, a cheap laptop is $400 but not only did you spend $200 for that free browser but another $200 gets you almost everything else you could possibly ask for.  That Chromebook also sort of hits a wall when it goes to college.  When Chromebook first came out a number of parents were providing their kids with them.  That lasted for about the first month of school.  Kids were wandering into my office telling me their Chromebook would not do such and such.  My simple reply was “Yup, it does not”.  Chromebooks disappeared.

Going the 1-1 route puts the onus of support on the school.  Repairs, software, updates, everything is the school’s responsibility.  With BYOD a large part of that load shifts to the students.  After observing about three years of BYOD the students handle everything just fine.  The school is responsible for providing an infrastructure; internet, wireless access, maybe a file server, for the student tech but it would have to do that anyway just to conduct school business.  BYOD also has the sort of hidden objective of requiring the student to learn how to operate and support their device.

There is one major glitch with both BYOD and 1-1.  Internet access.  We are starting to hit the band-width wall.  My school is in a residential neighborhood with residential internet access speeds.  Trying to stuff 300+ computers down a 60X4 Mbps pipe is starting to cause some problems.  Switching to Google Apps for Education and Google Drive has just exacerbated the problem.   It seems most of the schools in the State are hitting the same wall.  Be it BYOD or 1-1, we are going to have issues, or as Robert Burns said so succinctly, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”


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